An early vegan Christmas

15 December 2014

Mum and her new husband are in Melbourne at the moment, so yesterday we celebrated an early Christmas together. While, in my less sane moments, I dream of cooking up a Christmas feast for a dozen plus people, cooking a fancy dinner for just four was quite enough effort. The photos aren't brilliant as I took them in a hurry so that people could start eating, but they give an idea of what was on the table.

Christmas dinner



The centerpice dish was a Seitan Roulade, from Food Craft Lab, the sister site of veganbaking.net, run by the same guy. This was quite a success. Mine wasn't quite as well rolled as it should have been, but put flat and viewed from above, it looked pretty good. If you want to try this, it's a bit of effort, but worth it. If you want to try this, I found that kneading for the full 5 minutes, as I did on my test run, gave a slightly tough result, probably because it gets a little extra "kneading" in the sheet forming process. The second time, I kneaded for only 3.5 minutes, and that had a better texture. Also, the glaze may need a bit more water, and easily makes enough for two roulades, probably enough for three.

Seitan Roulade


This was accompanied by Gracious Vegan Gravy, also from Food Craft Lab. This is not a quick gravy, but it is seriously good. I recommend making it a day or two before so you one less thing to worry about.

Gracious Vegan Gravy


Side dishes were roast potatoes - baked with olive oil, fresh rosemary (absolutely do not use the stuff out of a tube for this - it tastes bitter when roasted), garlic powder, and freshly ground salt and pepper

Baked potatoes with rosemary


Roast butternut pumpkin, purple carrot and sweet potato, with olive oil, salt and pepper. I swear the stuff in the middle is not burnt! It's just dark purple carrot...

Roast pumpkin, purple carrot and sweet potato


Stir fried Bok Choi - made as per Veganomicon p. 113 and sprinkled with sesame seeds on top.

Stir fried bok choi


I thought I had over-catered, but before long, all that was left was a little roulade and gravy, along with some overly full and lethargic humans.
 

There was also dessert, but dessert deserves a post of its own.

Happy Birthday to Me

08 December 2014

Saturday was my birthday, so I baked myself a cake. Happy birthday to me!

Vegan chocolate birthday cake

Since it was my birthday, I chose to have a chocolatey chocolate cake. What else? The cake recipe was from veganbaking.net, topped and filled with a (not quite) double amount of Rich Chocolate Ganache from of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, p. 143, and drizzled with melted white chocolate. A friend helped with the strawberry arrangement. I would never have thought to stand them on end like that, but I was quite pleased with the result.

Vegan chocolate birthday cake

A few notes on the recipe:
  • If you're looking for a rich vegan chocolate cake, this is a good one. You could look at it as a rich chocolate cake, or a light mud cake. Either way, it was good.
  • The cake recipe explicitly said to use natural, not Dutch processed cocoa powder, and someone commented that they had had poor results using dutched cocoa. However, I bought a 5kg bag of organic fair trade Dutch processed cocoa powder earlier this year... The cake still rose as it should have. If you're Australian and confused about what I'm talking about, most cocoa in Australia is dutched.
  • I didn't have any bread flour on hand, so I mixed vital wheat gluten/gluten flour into ordinary plain flour. Use 1 teaspoon per cup. I removed the equivalent amount of plain flour first, or, in other words, used 1 teaspoon of gluten flour for 1 cup minus 1 teaspoon of flour, though that may have been unnecessarily pedantic.
  • I went easy on the espresso powder, because I didn't want a coffee flavour in my cake.
  • There are two layers of cake here, sandwiched with chocolate ganache. To do this, I doubled the recipe and spread it between two cake tins. 
  • Be careful watching the cake towards the end. I tested mine at the minimum time, and it was still underbaked, but a few minutes later, the toothpick came out completely clean, and I was aiming for not quite clean to ensure moistness - and it was on the dry side, though not badly so.
  • There is a lot of cake here. You could get at least 16 slices out of this.
  • I need to figure out how to ice the sides of a cake without also icing the plate...
  • To do the white chocolate drizzle, I used a small round icing tip. However, if you don't have any icing tips, you should still be able to get a good effect using one of these methods
    • Just dip a spoon in melted chocolate and gently drizzle it from a height. This will produce a thick and thin result, but I've done it in the past for other applications, and it still looks great.
    • Snip the corner off a ziplock bag, fill it with melted chocolate, and use the snipped off corner as make-shift piping tip. The hole should small, err on the small side, you can always make it bigger.


My first multi-step decorated cupcakes

23 November 2014

No new recipes today, I'm afraid, But I have some pictures of my recent efforts that I want to share. Yesterday was a good friend's birthday, and as I'm finished exams (Yay me!), I tried my hand at some decorated cupcakes to take along. This is only my second attempt at piping icing, and my first attempt at 2-part piping (the buttercream, and the ganache), but I think they looked impressive enough, if not exactly the product of an experienced and steady hand. Unfortunately, most of the photos didn't turn out (the photos of all the cupcakes laid out in rows for a start), but here are a couple of half-decent ones.


The recipe I used was the Peanut Butter Bombs on p. 37-38 of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World . I followed the instructions exactly, except that I only used 2 cups of icing sugar in the frosting instead of 2.5, and didn't add any soymilk to thin it out as a result. The icing was still more than sweet enough. I was a bit concerned that with less sugar, the icing mightn't be stiff enough, but I iced them the night before, and the icing was still well-defined the next day. I also sprinkled them with crushed nuts instead of chocolate shavings, for no particular reason.


I can see more decorated cupcakes in my future.

Roast pumpkin pasta sauce (vegan)

15 November 2014

I tend to eat a lot of pasta, I suspect most vegans do. It's quick and easy, but tomato based sauces can get repetitive, and creamy sauces just aren't an everyday thing. I usually have a chunk of pumpkin mouldering in the back of the fridge... pumpkin lasagne is good, why not pumpkin pasta sauce? The first time I made this, I raved about it for days afterwards, it really is that good, and simple enough to make for an everyday dinner.

Roast pumpkin pasta sauce

Roast pumpkin pasta sauce

Serves: 4-5

Ingredients
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups mashed roast pumpkin
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 vegetable bullion cube
  • ¾ cup soy milk, or to desired consistency
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • I cup walnuts, Crumbled (for garnish)
  • 1 packet fettuccine

Method
  1. Get water boiling, and then prepare fettuccine according to packet directions.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, in a medium saucepan, cook onion and garlic until translucent.
  3. Meanwhile, dry-toast walnuts in a frying pan or in the oven until fragrant (optional but worth it).
  4. Add pumpkin, bullion cube, soy milk and nutritional yeast, and some freshly ground black pepper. Heat through
  5. Use an immersion blender to puree. Alternatively, cool, and transfer to a blender.
  6. Serve atop fettuccine, garnished with walnuts, and some more freshly ground pepper

Roast pumpkin pasta sauce

How to roast a whole pumpkin

12 October 2014

A lot of American recipes call for canned pumpkin. I don't know if you can actually buy it here, I haven't checked, but it's certainly not an everyday pantry item. Besides, I like to avoid cans, because waste and expense.

Since roast pumpkin tastes so much better than boiled or microwaved, roast pumpkin puree is obviously the way to go, so I've always chopped up my pumpkin and roasted it to use in recipes that call for canned pumpkin. However, I recently tried a method with less prep work, and I don't think I’ll ever go back.

Roast pumpkin (whole)


Ingredients
  • 1 whole smallish pumpkin
  • Olive oil for brushing

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180.
  2. Wash and dry the pumpkin, any dust left on the skin can cause problems as it collapses with cooking.
  3. Cut in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy bis.
  4. Brush cut face with olive oil and place face down on a rimmed baking tray. If there's no lip, you will end up having to clean pumpkin juice off the bottom of your oven. Don't ask me how I know.
  5. Put the tray in the oven, and cook until you can easily pierce the skin with a fork. This will vary depending on the size of your pumpkin, but it will probably take around 1.5 hours, start checking earlier if your pumpkin is on the smaller side.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until you can safely touch it.
  7. Flip the pumpkin over, and scoop the flesh out. I transfer it to a bowl and roughly mash it. If you need it to be sans any stringy bits for a more fancy dish (such as scones), then you can either push it through a mesh sieve, or attack it with a stick mixer or blender. If you're baking with it, you may also wish to drain it through a strainer to get rid of the excess water.
Pumpkin-based recipes coming soon (I hope!).


Almond and cranberry muesli bars (vegan)

01 October 2014

I've eaten a lot of muesli bars in my life. Most commercial muesli bars are not vegan. The ones that are (I'm talking to you Be Natural) taste rather crap. My favourites as a kid were the Uncle Toby's yoghurt topped ones, something I haven't figured out how to reproduce yet, although I believe it could be done at home with the help of a dehydrator. So, yoghurt topped these are not, but delicious they are, and pretty healthy too. Chewy, hearty, and not too sweet.

Almond and cranberry muesli bars

I've been cycling a lot lately, a long ride every weekend on top of my usual commuting, and find that one of these makes a great mid-ride pick-me-up. They also make good study food. I eat too much study food...

Almond and cranberry muesli bars

Almond and cranberry muesli bars

Makes: about 18 bars, depending on how you cut them

Ingredients
  • 1½ cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup agave or maple syrup (or honey, if you're ok with that)
  • ¾ cup smooth peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • ⅔ cup sweetened dried cranberries (craisins)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Method
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 and toast the oats in a brownie tin for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden and crispy, then transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Now roast the almonds for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant, then transfer to the bowl.
  3. Turn off oven, then toast the coconut in the still warm oven for about 5 minutes, until golden. Watch closely, as coconut burns quickly.
  4. Meanwhile, mix the agave and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat until combined.
  5. Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl, including the peanut butter mixture, and mix thoroughly.
  6. Once the brownie tin is cool enough, wipe it out, and line the bottom and sides with cling wrap. Fill with muesli bar mixture, and use the back of a spoon to distribute evenly, packing it down firmly to help it hold together.
  7. Cover with another layer of cling wrap,and transfer to the freezer for about 1 hour, or until solid.
  8. Remove all the cling wrap, transfer to a cutting board, and cut into bars, squares, or whatever you prefer. I cut mine in half lengthways, and then into small bars.
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Almond and cranberry muesli bars

Cranberry "turkey" bagel (vegan)

20 September 2014

I haven't forgotten this blog, I've just had a mini explosion of uni assignments. I've still been doing some blog-related stuff, but I just haven't been able to get any recipes finalised, photographed and written up. Sorry.


In the meantime, here's a simple to prepare but rather gourmet lunch idea. I don't think I can get away with calling it a recipe, and it requires quite a few processed ingredients, but it's an awesome combination that I've had for lunch several times in the last few weeks, and it makes me oh so happy. You could do this as a sandwich instead of as a bagel, but having eaten it both ways, the bagel tastes way, way better.

 

Cranberry "turkey" bagel

Serves: 1


Ingredients
  • 1 relatively plain bagel - seeds are ok, but don't go for any strong flavourings
  • Vegan cream cheese such as Tofutti
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Mock deli meat - I've been using these, available at Woolies and probably Coles
  • Avocado
  • Salad leaves

Method
  1. Halve your bagel, and spread Tofutti on one half, and cranberry sauce on the other
  2. Put 2-3 slices of deli "meat" on the cranberry side, top with some sliced avocado and lettuce, then but the lid on.
  3. Stuff into your face and enjoy escaping, for a time, from the thousands of words you're supposed to be writing.